Last week, I was talking to a co-worker with pre-teens about youth and angst issues. As a pre-teen, I experienced a lot of angst at the fact that I was being raised by “old-fashioned” Grandparents that never let me do anything fun…and also the fact that me and my relatively young mother did not get along. I felt like an outsider in many ways. But thankfully I grew up and learned to see and appreciate all of the blessings that came my way in my upbringing.
But my co-worker still marveled at how this was possible. After all, I was born into a low-income environment to a teenage mother. My birth parents did not raise me (although they most definitely didn’t abandon me). I moved around a lot from place to place, making childhood friendships fleeting. I had (have?) major self-esteem issues. And yet, I face the work with a generally positive outlook. That tomorrow will bring a better day or at least another chance to make things better. Why is this? Why do I not let my depressing life situation get to me?
Well there are several reasons for this in my humble opinion. For starters, I came close to losing my life altogether. Even a life wrought with problems and pain means more to me than having no life at all. Whenever I start feeling down about my life situation, I focus on the last thing (or things) that made me really happy…then double-back and appreciate that if I had no life at all, then I could not have those moments of happiness. And no life can be filled 100% with happiness, so I have to accept the troubles as well.
The next reason stems from the survivalist nature of the Black American culture that I was brought up in. While it’s not universal, in the world I grew up in we may have been poor and had less than ideal social situations, but we sure weren’t alone in our troubles. Growing up I saw plenty of other people being raised by single mothers and grandparents. I saw people being evicted and having their cars repossessed. I also saw much more sinister things such as drug use, crime, domestic violence and the like.
My mother has said, “Black people don’t have time to be depressed.” Now we all know that yes, Black people can and do suffer from depression…so it’s not like she’s speaking any literal truth. But what she is trying to convey is that our lives are just hard by default. For better or for worse, we are used to it. So when it helps put other things into perspective. Things like money worries or your child not getting into college.
And the last major reason as to why I face each day with hope is my view of my purpose and of G-d’s plan for me. You see, I don’t think that the world exists to serve me. Rather I believe that G-d created this world for me to enjoy it, yet the best way for me to do so is to interact and contribute to his creation as well. For example, when I go shopping, I can very well spend all of my money on things for myself. But I don’t. Instead I also buy things for my BF, my sisters, etc. Similarly, that is how you have to view life. Learn how to make giving and contributing a joy. That way, you are not so devastated when things don’t go your way. Because just because they aren’t going your way, doesn’t mean that things aren’t going someone else’s way. For example, as a parent, you might hate your child’s love interest. However, your child is happy and just because your expectations aren’t being met, doesn’t mean that theirs are not being met.
All in all I was really flattered that my co-worker decided to point out my positive outlook on life. It really is quite a high compliment! 🙂